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4:13 PM, Mar 18, 2011 --

  • NYSE up 51.16 (+0.6%) to 8,116.02
  • DJIA up 83.93 (+0.7%) to 11,859
  • S&P 500 up 5.48 (+0.43%) to 1,279
  • Nasdaq up 7.62 (+0.3%) to 2,644

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

  • Hang Seng up 0.07%
  • Nikkei up 2.72%
  • FTSE up 0.64%

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) NKE continues evening decline that followed earnings miss.

(-) AN downgraded.

(-) AEO downgraded.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) LO down as FDA weighs restrictions on menthol cigarettes.

(+) EL reaffirms earnings guidance that's below Street view.

(+) CRA sold to Quest Diagnostics for $8 a share.

(+) F initiated with Buy rating.

(+) RIMM initiated with Buy rating.

(+) GE finding some traction after early-week post-quake drop.

MARKET DIRECTION

Stock averages end firmer though in the middle to lower end of the day's range. Weekly losses follow Japan's earthquake, one week ago today, and its nuclear aftermath. The Nasdaq ends down 2.7%; the S&P off 1.9%; the DJIA also lower.

Reports of the government's call for a ceasefire in Libya, gains for U.S. banking shares amid revived dividends and global help to cool the Japanese yen combined to lift stocks Friday. Stocks did give back some of their earlier gains in afternoon trading shortly after President Obama said the U.S. and some of its allies were prepared to launch military action in Libya if the fighting there doesn't cease.

Markets moved higher early on in response to Group of Seven action to curb a surging yen though Japan's nuclear risks remain in focus and the situation is still volatile. There were no U.S. economic reports scheduled.

Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery finished down 0.4%, or $0.35 to $101.07 a barrel. In other energy futures, heating oil was down 1.33% to $3.02 a gallon while natural gas was down 0.02% to $4.15 per million British thermal units. Meanwhile, gold futures rose on safe-haven investing despite positive developments in Libya. Gold for April delivery finished up 0.9% to $1,416.10 an ounce. In other metal futures, silver was up $2.43 to $35.09 a troy ounce while copper traded up 0.08% to $4.34.

The U.S. dollar index (DXY) is down 0.48% to $75.67.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM), Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) and other major U.S. banks plan to boost their dividend payments after passing stress tests evaluated by the Federal Reserve, they announced today.

The dividends, and announcements of share buybacks in some cases, signal that regulators view banks as being healthy enough to withstand the remaining uncertainties in the economy, after the banking system has been profitable for a year, Reuters said.

In company news:

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is higher after it says it will pay its first ever quarterly cash dividend to shareholders. A quarterly dividend of $0.06 per common share will be paid on April 20 to all shareholders of record as of the close of business on March 31. Future dividends will be subject to Board approval, it said.

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) says the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has adopted a negative opinion for the company's application to extend the marketing authorization in Europe for Vectibix to include combination with chemotherapy to treat patients with wild-type KRAS metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).

General Mills (NYSE:GIS) has entered into exclusive talks with French private equity group PAI Partners and French dairy cooperative Sodiaal SA to buy a 50% stake in the entity which owns yogurt-maker Yoplait SAS and affiliated companies. As part of that offer, General Mills would take a controlling stake in the operating company. The U.S. company did not put any figure on the deal, saying negotiations are in progress. General Mills said via a partnership with Sodiaal, it plans to expand and grow the Yoplait brand and business in France, Europe and globally. General Mills licensed the Yoplait brand in 1977, and is its largest licensee.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) shares are higher after Bloomberg reported that the investment bank is beginning to win more business from smaller private equity firms after forming a group to concentrate on the sector. The bank trying to make more in fees from buyouts, the report said.

Teva (NYSE:TEVA) says the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) adopted a positive opinion for NOMAC-E2, an investigational contraceptive pill combining 1.5 mg of 17-beta-estradiol with 2.5 mg of nomegestrol acetate in a 24/4 monophasic regimen. The CHMP issued its positive opinion following a review of data derived from clinical trials evaluating NOMAC-E2.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) is in talks with several firms, including Bharti Airtel Ltd., India's largest mobile-phone operator, as it seeks to advance a planned exit from the four ventures housing its broadband-wireless licenses, Dow Jones Newswires reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Bharti Airtel's planned bid for the assets of the U.S. mobile-phone chip maker appears to be the most advanced, although any actual transaction may take at least another two to three months, the report said.

Source: Stocks Achieve Back-to-Back Gains, But Nasdaq's 2.7% Drop Leads Weekly Declines